Thursday, September 23, 2010

Grilled Buffalo Wings

It's football season again and, as everyone knows, the absolute best food to eat while watching a game is PIZZA. Buffalo wings, however, run a close second and are the most requested item for me to bring to football parties. Over the years, I have cooked wings every method conceivable. I started by putting oil in an 8qt pot and frying them on my (electric) stove which is very, very messy. Eventually I bought a deep fryer and used that for a long time. At one point, I owned two deep fryers just for making wings. After Wifey came along and complained the house smelled like oil when I fried, I took to baking the wings, but it took forever (over an hour) and the wings never seemed crisp, so I moved to the grill. First I grilled the wings and after they completely cooked, tossed them in sauce, but no one liked them. My cousin Mike told me how he and his brother grilled wings once, and the rest, as they say, is history. The technique is to cook the wings by alternating between grilling and braising, which imparts both the grilled smokiness and sauce spiciness into the wings. My grill is close to my back door, and as long as there isn’t snow on the ground I don’t mind grilling all winter. I make this recipe all the way into December (they are a must for my annual Army-Navy game bash)

  • Wings
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Hot sauce of choice

  • Grill
  • Pan
  • Tongs
  • Meat Thermometer

Tyson, Purdue, and other companies sell bags of individually quick frozen wings in supermarkets. Defrost the wings, and season with salt and pepper, or a dry rub if desired. Heat the grill until it has a medium high heat (350-400 degrees if you have a thermometer on your grill). Grill the wings for about a minute per side directly on the grate. Put the wings into a roasting pan and cover with sauce. Leave the pan on the grill and cook with the lid closed for about five minutes. Return the wings to the grill for another couple minutes, then back in the sauce for five. It usually takes three or four cycles for the wings to get fully cooked. Use an insta-read meat thermometer if you want to make sure the wings are done (160 degrees F).

Notes on sauces: You can use any sauce you want. I like Steve and Eds Buffalo Wing sauce, because it gives some heat, but my mom will eat them.

Homemade sauces can be cooked right in the roasting pan. Just put the ingredients in while the grill is preheating and turn the wings over the first time you put them in the pan.

A note on the thermometer: A good insta-read thermometer is indispensable in the kitchen. I recommend ThermoWorks Super-Fast Thermapen (now Splashproof). Simply the best cooking thermometer I've ever had.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Steamed Clams

Instead of Flügtagging, Wifey's dad held the annual Stahl Crabfest, this weekend. After three years of being in the family, he offered me the honor of helping in the cooking. While Dad-in-law steamed two bushels of crabs, I took to the grill and steamed 500 clams (minus the ones we ate raw).

I really enjoy steaming clams, because it’s easy, and the number of ways you can influence the flavor of the clam. All you really need is a cooking vessel, a liquid, and heat. The liquid imparts the most flavor to the clams. Water gives you a true clam flavor, but beer, wine, chicken broth, or any other clear liquid work great and add flavor. Beyond that, you can add any number of things to the liquid to impart more flavors; aromatic vegetables, seasonings, or butter give the best results. I steam with water when I am using the clams as part of another recipe (clams over linguine, pork in clam and garlic sauce) but when we are eating the clams as an appetizer, I usually cook my clams in white wine with butter, red and green bell peppers, and garlic. This time I kept it simple and steamed with white wine, except for one batch I steamed in beer.

The size of the steaming pan depends on how many clams you are cooking and what you plan on using to heat the pan. On a stove-top, I use a large frying pan or a stockpot. In the oven I use a cast iron pan, a roasting pan, or a casserole dish. On the grill, I use a roasting pan, or sometime just put the clams on the grate. I like using the “foil-ware” lasagna pans or steaming trays in the oven or on the grill when I am cooking more than one batch, since I can use a new one instead of cleaning the pan when switching liquids, or when serving the clams in the juice.

  • Clams
  • Liquid of choice
  • Flavorings of choice
  • Water
  • Corn Meal
  • Ice
  • Pan
  • Tongs
  • Knives and cutting boards to prep flavorings (if necessary)
  • Storage container
Prior to cooking, any bad clams (broken shells, chipped, barnacled) should be discarded. The remainder need to be cleaned by soaking them in ice water with some cornmeal added to it. After about a half hour the water will be cloudy and dirty, but the inside of the clams will be dirt free. Pick the clams out of the water, don’t pour them through a strainer or you will just be pouring the dirt back over them.

Pick a cooking vessel which fits over your heat source, and is over an inch or two deep. Fill the pot with one layer of clams.  Don’t stack clams on top of each other, or you risk over-cooking the bottom clams. Pour about an inch of liquid, and add any flavorings into the pan, and cook over high heat until the clams start opening. As each clam opens completely, remove them to your serving plate. Discard any clams that don’t open within a few minutes of the rest of the clams. Eat right out of the shell or dip in drawn butter and enjoy.